Fraleigh Resigns as CEO North America at Sara Lee

Smits will lead "MeatCo" business in interim

CJ Fraleigh (left), Marcel Smits

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. -- Sara Lee Corp. has announced that CJ Fraleigh, chief executive officer of North America, has resigned from the company to pursue other opportunities. The company has commenced a search for Fraleigh's successor, with the objective of making an appointment as soon as possible. In the interim, Sara Lee Corp. chief executive officer Marcel Smits will also assume responsibilities for leading the North American business, and Fraleigh will be available to Smits during this transition.

"CJ played an important role in taking the North American business to this stage in its development," said Jan Bennink, executive chairman of the board of Sara Lee Corp. "We now believe that a different approach is needed to transition the North American business into a pure-play company."

"On behalf of the board, we thank CJ for his contributions," added Bennink. "Under his leadership, the North American business significantly improved its profitability, increased its rate of innovation and streamlined operations. He contributed to the development of what we believe is a solid strategy for the future and we wish him well in his future endeavors."

Said Smits, "We have a talented, experienced and highly capable North American senior team, and I look forward to working with them to drive the business forward during this transition."

Smits joined Sara Lee as chief financial officer in October 2009 and was appointed chief executive officer in January 2011.

In January, the company announced its intention to split into two separate, publicly held companies, known as International Coffee & Tea (CoffeeCo) and North American Retail Meats & North American Foodservice (MeatCo). Last week, the company appointed Michiel Herkemij as chief executive officer of CoffeeCo.

The company remains on track to execute the spinoff in the first half of calendar 2012.

The Downers Grove, Ill.-based company has one of the world's leading portfolios of food and beverage brands, including Ball Park, Douwe Egberts, Hillshire Farm, Jimmy Dean, Sara Lee and Senseo. Collectively, the brands generate nearly $9 billion in annual net sales from continuing operations. Sara Lee has approximately 20,000 employees in its continuing operations worldwide.